Zona Oeste The West Zone in Rio de Janeiro is the farthest zone from city center and is home to the richest and poorest neighborhoods in Rio.
Nightlife in Rio is not all about the historic downtown. On the other side of South Zone lies the West Zone. And special attention should be paid to Barra da Tijuca. Barra as it is called, and its surroundings are now the most expanding neighborhoods of Rio, and entertainment is the big deal over there. Enormous shopping centers are good for shopping (of course) and have cinemas and bowling alleys to offer. But the clubs are the pièce de résistance of the neighborhood. Filled with young good-looking boys and girls (you have to be eighteen to go in, but there's always a way around that), the clubs of Barra are a 'must' among the foreigners.
- Barra Woods (Bosque da Barra), Av. das Americas, km.6 - Barra da Tijuca. This 560,000 sq. meter park is one of the most visited green areas in the Zona Oeste, with a lake, walking trails through the woods, large lawns, playgrounds, and sporting facilities.
- Casa do Pontal Popular Art Museum (Museu Casa do Pontal), Estrada do Pontal 329 - Recreio dos Bandeirantes (between Prainha and Vargem Grande), ☎ 21 2490-3278 ([email protected]), . The area's most important collection of popular arts and crafts. Daily 9AM-5:30PM.
- Chico Mendes Ecological Park (Parque Ecológico Chico Mendes), Avenida Jarbas de Carvalho 679 - Recreio dos Bandeirantes, ☎ 21 2437-6400. Tues-Sun 8AM-5PM. This 43-hectare park has walking trails through a preserved section of the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest). They also offer a guided tour of the habitats of several local endangered species, including the three-toed sloth, the broad-snouted caiman, and the red-footed tortoise. There is an exhibit hall with exhibits on local wildlife. Free.
- Pedra Branca State Park (Parque Estadual da Pedra Branca), (several entrances, including the end of Rua Boca do Mato in Vargem Pequena, and the end of Rua Mucuíba in Vargem Grande), ☎ 21 2446-4557. The largest ecological park in the city, and the largest urban forest in the world, with 12,500 hectares. Vegetation is typical of the old Atlantic forest, and fauna includes ocelots, sloths, armadillos, and toucans. Beyond the nature, there are also ruins of several structures, such as old farmhouses.
In the West Zone you can find some of the best beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Barra da Tijuca's beach is a 17km sand line of clear waters. Surfers love it, and many people also. The sunset is beautiful, especially during the winter. The beach is relatively safe at night, although development of tourism by big hotels such as the Sheraton have brought with it the inevitable appearance of (discreet but ever present) prostitutes. As you go along you get to Recreio, which is even clearer, and much less crowded. Prainha is now very far away from the crowded Copacabana. Its perfect waves made it famous. It is also on a biological reserve, with restricted car parking spaces. Avoid the weekends and enjoy this between mountains-beauty of the nature on the week-days.
There are many surfing schools all along the Barra beach that hold one and half hour surfing classes. The classes are fairly inexpensive and are mostly populated with locals. Some of the surf instructors do speak English.
- Terra Encantada, Av. Ayrton Senna 2800 - Barra da Tijuca, ☎ 21 2421-9444, . One of the largest amusement parks in South America, themed on famous figures in the history of Brazil. It's biggest roller-coaster, the Monte Makaya, was the 4-year record-holder for number of inversions with eight of them, until the title was usurped by Thorpe Park.
- Barra Shopping, Avenida das Américas 4666 - Barra da Tijuca, ☎ 21 3089-1100, . The largest mall in South America, and one of the most popular malls in the city. Leather goods are some of the best bargains here. Shoes and belts are especially inexpensive. Kopenhagen chocolate shop has some of the best chocolates. It is quite nice to stop and have a coffee at one of the several coffee shops and people watch. Many of the guards are rather attractive ladies, but are quite serious about their job. Special buses are available to take tourists here.
- Downtown Barra da Tijuca. A new urban development intended to match the density and mixed-use nature of a traditional downtown area. There are many shops, botiques, cafes, restaurants, offices, and a movie theater complex. A small park can be found nestled in a quiet corner of the complex. At night, the shops close and the nightlife begins. Live music can be found at any of several restaurants. When the music is particularly good, the area around Barril 8000 basically turns into a street party.
- New York City Center, Avenida das Américas 5000 - Barra da Tijuca, ☎ 21 2432-4882.
- Rio Design Barra, Avenida das Américas 7777 - Barra da Tijuca, . Mon-Sat 10AM-10PM, Sun 1PM-9PM. The newest and poshest mall in the area. Top Brazilian designers have opened stores there, making it an option for the affluent population in Barra who does not want to drive to São Conrado Fashion Mall. The mall also has excellent restaurant options and two movie theaters. Much less crowded and a lot more charming than most shopping centers in Rio. Worth the visit.
- Cabana do Pepe, (at the far eastern end of Barra beach). Pepe was a famous hang glider that passed away in a hang gliding accident in Japan a few years ago. He started a sandwich shop on the beach that makes a variety of healthy sandwiches. Especially good are the fruit smoothies. Not to be missed. Cabana do Pepe is currently run by Pepe's widow. This is the most popular area of the Barra beach, and is the best area for people watching.
- Alpendre, Estrada do Sacarrão 897 - Vargem Grande. Alpendre's menu is full of typical Brazilian cuisine from around the country.
- Barril 8000, Av. Sernambetiba 8000 - Barra da Tijuca, . The menu here is typical Brazilian bar food with lots of meats, pizzas, and a roasted potato dish well worth trying. Try the bolinhas de bacalhau or the quibe to start. Most nights, you can find live music after 10PM, which makes for a nice night out on the town.
- Beco do Alemão, Avenida das Americas 1600 - Barra da Tijuca, ☎ +55 (21) 3139-9900. Monday - Saturday 11:30Am - 11:30PM, Sunday 11:30AM - 6PM. Although unexpected it is delightful. Germany food in Rio! Fantastic breakfast and salad bar.
- Galeria Gourmet, Avenida das Américas 500 - Barra da Tijuca, ☎ 21 3419-5719. A very popular option for lunch and dinner. Great variety of salads, grilled meat, pasta, fish and all you can think of. You pay a fixed price for the all-you-can-eat buffet. In the evenings, there is usually a live band playing outdoors and the place gets pretty crowded.
- Lokau, Rua Presidente Nereu Ramos 1214 - Recreio (near Posto 10), ☎ 21 2487-0659. Skip the pizza and pastas in favor of the more traditional Brazilian cuisine. The bobo de camarão and the moqueca capixaba are favorites. These meals serve two, so order accordingly. Sit on the second floor patio and enjoy views of the beach and sunset.
- 4 Estacões, Ilha da Cora, 20 - Barra De Tijuca, . A good place for a date or a night out on the town. Good food and a romantic views of the Pedra da Gávea.
- Porcão, Av. Armando Lombardi 591 - Barra da Tijuca, ☎ 21 3154-9255, . Mon-Thurs 12PM-12AM, Sat-Sun 12PM-12:30AM, Sun 12PM-11:30PM. Popular churrascaria which often attracts even celebrities-- Take a look at the photos on the right at the front door. On Saturdays they also serve the other traditional Brazilian food, feijoada. R$69.
- Rio Barra Brasa, Avenida Ayrton Senna 2541 - Barra da Tijuca, ☎ 21 2199-9191. This churrascaria has unusually excellent meat and shrimp along with a salad bar and all the other standards of the genre. There is a monitored play area for children.
- Bar do Baiano, Rua do Imperador - Realengo. Bar with a varied schedule of live music from Monday to Saturday, covering all types of music, from jazz to choro.
- Nuth, Av. Armando Lombardi 999 - Barra da Tijuca, ☎ 21 3575-6850 ([email protected]), . One of the best clubs for the beautiful people of the Zona Oeste, playing hip-hop, techno, and Brazilian tunes. It really gets going around midnight, but if you don't get there about 10PM you may not be able to get in at all, as the line can get long and capacity is limited. Cover R$20-30.